Review: The Guild 2: Renaissance (PC)

The Guild 2: Renaissance
Developer: 4Head Studios
Publisher: Dreamcatcher
Genre: Sim
Release Date: 10/19/2010

I have never played a single installment in The Guild franchise until The Guild 2: Renaissance. Being completely fresh to the experience proved to make this one of the most difficult games I have ever had to play. Was this difficulty worth it and am I just naturally bad at JoWooD games?

Story:

Welcome to the Renaissance. You are the head of a family and you are out to make money, gain power and generally capitalize on the zeitgeist of the rediscovery of learning. You and your dynasty are about to start breaking backs and stabbing folks to get by because that’s how things go down when the nobility and church are losing influence. Become one of the new middle class and climb the social ladder.

I like this story! Why? Because you essentially make your own story.

Story Rating: Above Average

Graphics:

Getting on to the looks of The Guild 2: Renaissance , the animations on the characters are fun to watch and the graphics are not that bad. They may be a bit dated and stiff, but not the worst I’ve seen. If you turn up the graphical options, things will look better than the default settings. There are usually a decent amount of characters on screen, living their lives. You can generally tell characters apart by looks alone and the game looks at least decent. I would say it has your typical Euro game aesthetic. Not great but not terrible.

Graphics Rating: Average

Sound:

Having a nice, soothing narrator along with the sounds of a medieval European city is sometimes lost with the busy background music. I prefer to listen to the city over the musical score. The background music isn’t bad though, it fits the period and actually makes a good listen when not playing.

Sound Rating: Average

Gameplay:

I started off my new life in the post dark age of Europe as a man about town. By day I was a lout, but by night – the leader of a thieves’ guild. I bought a title and built a building. I hired some guy to stand in my house. Then, I waited. I waited to find out just what the heck I was supposed to do. Time and time again, with different paths, I waited. Sometimes I would manage supplies and employees, other times who to stab or spy on. The problem I encountered is that The Guild 2: Renaissance is not intuitive at all. I received this game and spent hours trying to figure out what to do. I went on forums, looked at donkey porn, then at reviews and boards about this game. I found no real solid explanation on how to do what with this game because I found it was a stand-alone expansion pack. Then I had Thanksgiving, a family emergency and a visitor from out of town, so I waited.

My patience eventually paid off. The game is centered around patience. You must wait for your business to flourish. You must wait for your person to get married. You wait for protection money. You wait to stand trial. In between those periods of waiting are the times of action. The game is centered on anticipation, on seeing a good plan come together. The icon based menu says what things do but unless you are familiar with the franchise or have patience, being dropped into this game without prior experience will make you want to shelve it immediately.

The game is simple enough. Your character has stats and can improve as they gain experience. There is no difference in being male or female (I don’t like that because that isn’t true to the time period), but there are differences in being Catholic and Protestant (mainly being the other folks will not like you). The game is done via a master menu, akin to console games. Simple pictures with hover over titles tell you what the name of the action is. If you hold the right mouse button a more detailed explanation comes up. This action bar driven game play has the advantage of short cuts, but the disadvantage that if you are not used to those short cuts you can lose your target and not find them again as using an action reselects your character.

The ability to upgrade your businesses and home and buy improvements adds more choices. This means progression can lead to a one more turn syndrome. Compelled to wait for enough money for an upgrade, you will need more patience. To even get to the point of figuring out what does what required numerous stop and starts. Patience.

Gameplay in the Guild 2: Renaissance is all about patience if you are new. This is a game of trial and error. The learning arch is not kind and you can easily spend yourself to game over because, even after reading the manual, the game is not intuitive. Figuring out the optimal trade routes, discovering just what sells, waiting for perks at every other level, it all boils down to a waiting game. This would kill most games but the potential and rewards… oh the potential and rewards. The big payoff is watching everything take shape. Like a sculptor, you see your master work become something more than what you put into it.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Below Average

Replayability:

The four character classes and their professions (ranging from regular old thief to tailor to alchemist to mercenary) give a variety of paths to take that will require multiple playthroughs to get a handle on. Being a rogue is an entirely different game than being a patron who owns a bakery. The game types (elimination, random mission, endless game) provide alternate goals. With the way the game can twist and turn, The Guild 2 offers a large amount of gaming.

Replayability Rating: Very Good

Balance:

For a new player like myself, weighing balance on a stand-alone expansion is a difficult task. I found the rogue path easier than the micromanagement involved in other businesses. Simply running a protection racket was easier to understand than having to get into the guttiworks of production and sales. However, all the paths I tried ended up being profitable if I did not grow impatient and tried to make things happen. Patience is a key in successful business ventures.

Politics wise, I learned that if you live by the trial you can die by the trial. Gathering evidence on your enemies and bringing them to “justice” feels amazing… until someone finds out your dirty secrets and ends up getting you beheaded. I found the ability for turnabout a welcome situation. The big problem I found, being a fresh Guild player, is that it is easy to overspend and basically screw yourself out of a game. The bar is high for new entrants and the curve is a bit steep.

Balance Rating: Below Average

Originality:

I found The Guild 2: Renaissance to be a refreshing take on the management style of game. The fighting, business paths, marriage and dynasty aspects make it play like a more interesting (read: actually interesting) version of The Sims. That’s really the only game I can compare The Guild 2 to, but they aren’t that close. This series seems to have its own niche.

Originality Rating: Good

Addictiveness:

Once you get into TG2:R, it can make time fly like a pig shot out of a catapult. The cities you inhabit are changing all the time and you must keep up with your political and economic rivals. Businesses need tending and you need to knock some boots with your spouse to create offspring so your family can continue into the next generation. After a sluggish start with a steep learning curve, The Guild 2: Renaissance can capture the imagination and get the think juices flowing.

Addictiveness Rating: Good

Appeal Factor:

Unfortunately, TG2: R has very limited appeal. The game manual tells only some of what you need and, this being a stand-alone expansion pack, the game assumes you are familiar with the basic mechanics. This creates a steep learning curve and something that can discourage people from continuing. Add to that the limited appeal of a Renaissance-era life simulator and you have a delicious, very limited audience cake. The frosting is probably cursed and an orphan’s soul was used in the wet ingredients.

Appeal Factor: Poor

Miscellaneous:

My thief lord, head of the rogue’s guild and decently respected citizen about town, “accidentally” tried to set a rival’s house on fire. He went to trial right years later and I bribed the wrong person. Mr. Stabual Cleavins was beheaded on a deary February morning. That was pretty awesome.

Miscellaneous Rating: Very Good

The Scores:
Story: Above Average
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Mediocre
Gameplay: Below Average
Replayability: Very Good
Balance: Below Average
Originality: Good
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Very Good
Final Score: Above Average Game

Short Attention Span Summary

By virtue of trying to understand The Guild 2: Renaissance, I learned more about myself. I learned that sometimes I get bored and that one must fight through the confusion and annoyance that feeling helplessly lost can bring. The Guild 2: Renaissance helped me find my patience, something I thought I threw away when the internet came about. The stand alone add-on is a challenge, but one I would say you should try.